Vidya Balan : The reigning queen of hearts in Bollywood!
She can be touted as the “outsider” in Bollywood, who came, saw and made it big! Who knew that the girl who has started off her career in the small screen with the sitcom Hum Paanch, followed by 60-odd television commercials, music videos and minor roles in the South-Indian film industry, will one day rise to the peak of national stardom? The most interesting part about her journey being that though she was not cast in the mould of a quintessential Hindi film heroine, yet she managed to gain a strong foothold in the industry, on the basis of her inner potential that was translated onscreen to stellar performances. Her debut as a feature film actress was in a Bengali movie titled Bhalo Theko, following which, about a couple of years, she made her foray into Bollywood in Parineeta, which instantly got her noticed for her effortless rendition of an idealist woman named Lalita. She not only wowed the critics and audiences alike, but also bagged quite a few awards for her portrayal as the devoted and dignified Lalita. Next, her character of Jahnvi in Lage Raho Munnabhai could manage to create an impact despite the strong chances of being overshadowed by the male protagonist (Sanjay Dutt) who essayed the title role. Here too, her performance won critical acclaim as well as the movie turned out to be a blockbuster! Her climb towards the upper rungs of the ladder of success saw a few setbacks as well, in the form of ‘right’ characters in the wrong movies, such as that in Salaam-e-Ishq and Eklavya. These movies bombed at the box-office, though Vidya’s roles were appreciated even amidst a huge ensemble cast in both the flicks. She ventured into mainstream roles by acting in purely commercial movies such as Heyy Babyy, in which she played the forgettable single mother Isha Sahni. Despite the movie doing well, Balan was widely criticised by reviewers, industry insiders as well as the public in general for her fashion sense, wardrobe, and make-up. This rough patch in her career-path was further worsened by Halla Bol and Kismat Connection, which failed to leave a mark, whether as a movie or Vidya’s role in particular. Then came the milestone in her career where things took a turn for the better. In Paa, Vidya’s poignant and restrained projection of an unwed mother of a 12 year-old son with Progeria syndrome, impressed one and all. Apart from the number of awards she won, she was highly appreciated for bringing a rare kind of dignity to the maternal image in Bollywood prototype, that embodied grace and integrity. While she was still riding high on the success of Paa, along her way came Ishqiya, a black comedy, in which her role of a sexually manipulative woman was not only unconventional but had myriad shades; Balan did justice to them all! She defied the much-accepted notion of beauty and sensuality in Bollywood, and was setting her own norms! Then came along No One Killed Jessica, in which Vidya portrayed the real-life character of Sabrina Lal, murdered model Jessica Lal’s sister who is on a search for the truth. For this role, she was praised by critics and viewers alike. She had brought forth the subtle nuances of the character onto the screen with a “sublime control over her emotions.” Her next appearance was in the controversial yet superbly successful The Dirty Picture, a biopic that traced the life and death of Silk Smitha, an equally controversial Indian actress. This was labelled as her strongest performance till date and she was being showered with unanimous praises from all quarters for bringing out such brazen complexities of the character on celluloid. The role was one of a kind, and rare in the history of Indian cinema and Vidya not only added another feather to her cap with a National Award but was now being looked upon as the heroine who could carry an entire film on her own shoulders! If this wasn’t enough, then along her way came Kahaani; again a completely woman-oriented role of a pregnant woman, and Vidya lent such authenticity to the role that left everyone awestruck of this stupendous actress. The film was a major commercial success both in India and overseas and Vidya, needless to say, won awards and acclaim galore. Often labelled as the “female hero”, she has certainly brought about some radical changes in the way this male-dominated industry has been viewed since ages. While her contemporaries are mostly obsessed with size-zero bodies and pretty-as-a-picture attributes, her forte has been her completely real and natural self, and the characters she enacts are those that she instinctually believes in, rather than being driven by conventions. This leading lady evokes a powerful yet lovable personality of her own and is here to stay!